Hello, Baltimore

After outgrowing its office in Columbia, MD, Pandora Jewelry has made a new home for itself in Charm City that has allowed it to retain its existing workforce

Kevin Conklin
Kevin Conklin

Years ago, when PANDORA Jewelry moved its regional headquarters to Columbia, Maryland, it thought the site’st 56,000 square feet would be enough to handle growth over the long term. By 2012, however, phenomenal increases in revenue allowed the company to add employees, and suddenly its space began to get tight. Relocating an entire office isn’t simple and can often be a huge hassle for workers, so when PANDORA decided to move again, it was vice president of operations Kevin Conklin who helped the company conduct the right analysis to ultimately make a confident transition to the city of Baltimore without losing staff.

The first question Conklin’s team faced was whether it made more sense to build or lease. “If you build a location, it’s exactly the way you want it to be,” Conklin says. “So, we looked at greenfield spaces, but ultimately the decision to lease came down to timing. We needed to move in before we could get a new building up and running.”

Conklin began looking for properties with a few requirements in mind: PANDORA wanted to stay within Maryland, near Howard County, and near Columbia, where most of the company’s employees lived. “Our most important consideration was our people,” says Conklin, whose department spent many late nights looking at how far it could move PANDORA without losing workers. Conklin gave the company’s broker, Jones Lang LaSalle, several counties to look at, and when he saw properties that had potential, he created heat maps around them showing where people lived. “Annapolis was a great example,” Conklin says. “We really liked some real estate there, but it was too far from our employee base.”

Critical Renovations

In addition to moving its headquarters from Columbia to Baltimore, PANDORA faced two other challenges: retrofitting its existing location in Columbia to meet the needs of its operations staff and overhauling its New York trend-spotting office. In Columbia, the company removed offices and cubicles to make room for a distribution hub, which takes up 70 percent of the space; the rest houses customer-service, returns, information technology, and human resources departments. In New York, the company simply gutted an old, outdated location to make it more aesthetically appropriate for a staff whose work revolves around spotting and forecasting the latest jewelry trends.

The Columbia office had roughly 200 staff members, and Conklin and his team also had to decide whether to separate out the company’s operations staff, which ships PANDORA’s products throughout the Americas. They weighed their options, debating whether it would be better to house everyone together in one building, use several buildings on a single campus, or keep the operations team and everyone else at separate locations. The buildings they looked at helped inform their decision. Ultimately, PANDORA relocated most of its Columbia office staff to five of the 24 floors at 250 West Pratt Street, just outside Camden Yards ballpark, and kept its operations staff at the existing Columbia location, which was retrofitted.

Before beginning the build-out of the 87,682-square-foot office space in Baltimore, Conklin and his team held vision sessions to determine how it would function. “We wanted to ensure that the new space didn’t reflect a single person’s vision but PANDORA’s vision,” Conklin says. “So, we met with every department and listened to what they had to say.”

His team’s discussions led to the space’s unusual layout. All its larger offices are located toward the middle of each floor, and cubicles sit nearer the windows so that everyone has natural light and 360-degree views of Baltimore. Along the window line on every floor are nooks that people can use as open meeting spaces, and there’s also a staircase connecting all five floors that Conklin says will facilitate communication and collaboration while promoting health and wellness.

The space is also rich with amenities, including a fitness center with showers, a coffee bar with specialty drinks, and a café that provides employees with breakfast and lunch. “We’ve always offered employees meals, but previously we’d send you a menu on Monday and you could choose between a few items and a salad bar,” Conklin says. “Now, you order from a computer, iPad, or iPhone, and the food is made to order. You get a notification when it’s ready, and you can either eat it in the café or take it back to your desk.”

One of Conklin’s favorite features at the new location, though, is signage on the building exterior. The company’s logo appears on the building’s roof—on two sides of the property—and is backlit, so it can glow orange during baseball season for the Baltimore Orioles, purple during football season for the Baltimore Ravens, pink during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and so on. “Our executive team wanted to be sure our presence in Baltimore and Maryland was known,” Conklin says. “This is our home now, much like Under Armour or Legg Mason, and when you look to the downtown landscape, you’ll see the PANDORA building.”

The office's interior stairwell connects all five floors, and it will foster worker wellness and collaboration.
The office’s interior stairwell connects all five floors, and it will foster worker wellness and collaboration.
PANDORA employees can grab a pick-me-up during any part of the workday from their office's new coffee bar.
PANDORA employees can grab a pick-me-up during any part of the workday from their office’s new coffee bar.
The café will take orders by computer, iPad, or iPhone, and employees will get a notification when they're food is ready.
The café will take orders by computer, iPad, or iPhone, and employees will get a notification when they’re food is ready.